Small, slender, evergreen shrub, growing to 1 ft (30 cm), with oval, dark green leaves, pink flowers, and round or slightly pear shaped red berries.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to eastern North America and northern Asia, cranberry thrives in acidic soils and in wet, boggy ground. It is widely cultivated in the northeastern U.S..
Cranberry contains tannins (catechins, proanthocyanidins, and polyphenols), flavonoids, and vitamin C.
History & Folklore
Best known for cranberry sauce, cranberry has traditionally been taken as a tart, acidic drink in Sweden. Cranberry was first cultivated in Britain in 1808 by the English botanist Joseph Banks, and in the U.S.—now the principal grower of cranberries—in the 1840s.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
A classic remedy for urinary tract infections, cranberry can be used both to prevent and to treat problems such as cystitis and urethritis. Taken as berries, juice, or extract, it will help to disinfect the urinary tubules and may be taken for problems associated with poor urinary flow such as enlarged prostate, as well as bladder infections. In cases of acute infection, cranberry is likely to work better in combination with herbs such as buchu (Barosma betulina) and uva-ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). Cranberry may also be used long term to prevent the development of calcium carbonate urinary stones.
Research published in 1994 found that cranberry juice reduced the need for antibiotics in women suffering from chronic urinary tract infection. It seems likely that cranberry works by making it more difficult for bacteria to cling to the urinary tract wall, and infection is therefore more easily flushed out. The proanthocyanidins and catechins are probably responsible for this action.
In kidney disease, use only on professional advice.